YouTube plans to curb content promoting harmful conspiracy theories

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Many social media platforms have been cracking down on content which promotes harmful conspiracy theories. In July, Twitter banned 7,000 accounts associated with the QAnon conspiracy group. Just a few days ago, Facebook also banned accounts representing QAnon across all its platforms. Just recently, YouTube stated that it would be removing content containing misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines as well as videos linking the pandemic to 5G technology.

Now, YouTube has again announced similar initiatives, but in a slightly broader context rather than targeting QAnon or misinformation about COVID-19 alone.

The company says that moving forward, it will be removing all hateful and harmful conspiracy theory videos that are being used to target individuals and groups, as well as promote and justify real-world violence. To be clear, this is not the first time the company has taken such an initiative. Over the past couple of years, it has updated its recommendation algorithms to reduce the visibility of such content from its search and discovery systems, an effort which resulted in up to 80% drops in views for QAnon content. It has also banned hundreds of channels and removed thousands of videos promoting this type of content under its existing policies.

The firm went on to say that:

Today we’re further expanding both our hate and harassment policies to prohibit content that targets an individual or group with conspiracy theories that have been used to justify real-world violence. One example would be content that threatens or harasses someone by suggesting they are complicit in one of these harmful conspiracies, such as QAnon or Pizzagate. As always, context matters, so news coverage on these issues or content discussing them without targeting individuals or protected groups may stay up. We will begin enforcing this updated policy today, and will ramp up in the weeks to come.

Given the tricky nature of the situation as well as tactics employed by conspiracy theory groups to subvert YouTube’s regulations, the company says that it will keep updating its policies accordingly to fight this threat.

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